Richard Haddad is recently retired from a career managing support services functions in the public and private sectors. A resident of Westminster, Maryland, he has been writing on the side – articles, essays, fiction and satire – since college. His wife Valorie’s first child, by a previous marriage, was brain-damaged during birth and suffered severe physical and mental disabilities as a result. So there was apprehension during the pregnancy and delivery of her second child, their daughter Ashleigh. Richard, who had two children by a previous marriage, wanted Ashleigh to know how important her birth was for her parents and what she meant to the family. He wrote this letter to her after he got home from the hospital on the day she was born, in 1985. He never told her about the letter until her 18th birthday, when he gave her the signed original.
Dear Ashleigh Elizabeth,
I am about to take my first bite of one of the biggest, most delicious-looking ice cream sundaes I’ve ever had, topped with your mother’s own home-made fresh strawberry jam, in a private celebration of your birth at 10:11 AM today, June 24, 1985.
I wish you could have seen and appreciated the look on your mother’s face and the tears in her eyes when she watched you lifted out of her and saw that you were perfect and heard you cry. That look alone was for me worth all the hard work and all the risk that went into your being born today.
Before you were a minute old, the consensus in the delivery room was that you were a beautiful baby. It seems to me that if you were actually ugly and the hospital staff didn’t want to hurt our feelings, they would have said that you were cute, not beautiful. So you must really be beautiful. But that’s not how your daddy, who places a lot of value on accuracy, would describe you… yet.
What I see when I look at you is your matted dark brown hair on a still slightly crusty scalp; medium-to-dark complexion from my side of the family and a broad forehead from your mother’s side; your mother’s pug in miniature; puffy eyelids which open every once in a while to show enough to make me think I’m going to love your eyes; soft, soft skin (your mother’s) on big cheeks which sag a little; pretty shaped lips also like your mother’s, I think, except more like an o; a chin (what chin?) which needs to do some growing in and a neck which looks like it was intended for Jabba the Hut’s daughter; and pretty ears which seem to borrow in size and shape from both sides of the family, but which are covered, as your brother Jason observed, with tiny hairs.
I’d say you’re a mixed bag as a newborn looker, but I do think you’ve got a lot of potential. And I think that all the people who have been raving about you all day mean that you are beautiful compared to other newborns (who are usually pretty ugly) and that you are likely to grow to become a beautiful little girl and then a beautiful woman. I can agree with that.
So, beautiful one, now that your father has critiqued your face, please hear this clearly and carefully – the purpose of this letter: I love you already, as you are right this hour, not yet a full day old.
I love you and I love your mother who made you with me. I know that someday you will understand just how happy it made me and your mother to see your perfect body lifted from hers and to hear you pronounced a healthy baby. But please know this right from the beginning: you are because of the love that your mother and I have for each other, and for no other reason. I’m not sure how many other infants there are around who can say that, but I have a feeling you are a very lucky girl.
And with that said, I’m going to try to get some sleep; it’s been almost as long and emotional a day for me as it’s been for you. I hope you are sleeping restfully right now. Can’t wait to see your face again tomorrow morning.
P.S. – See part 2 tomorrow.